By Stacy Vogel Davis, Communications Director
It goes without saying that naval officers are interested in water. But officers from around the world got a brand-new view of water issues and solutions during a visit to the Global Water Center in Milwaukee on Tuesday.
The visit was part of the Naval Staff College professional development program at the U.S. Naval War College in Rhode Island. Naval officers representing 30 countries, including Senegal, Malaysia, Norway, Colombia and Timor-Leste, are taking part, traveling across the country to learn more about American life, said Commander Mark Yehl, Naval Staff College director. “We want them to be able to go back to their home countries with a better understanding of what America is all about,” he said.
But water, of course, is universal. During the officers’ morning at the Global Water Center – headquarters of The Water Council – they learned what private companies, NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) and universities are doing to address worldwide water crises.
Todd Williams, chief growth officer at Divirod, described how his business uses sensors to measure water levels over time, helping communities understand flood risks, create early warning systems for hurricanes and high tides, prepare for disasters, and manage stormwater and reservoirs. Divirod is part of The Water Council’s BREW 2.0 Post-Accelerator for late-stage start-ups.
The group also heard from Jill Georger of Crane Engineering about the company’s Oystra project. The project was originally funded by a grant to improve health in developing countries by reducing human exposure to pathogens from improperly handled fecal sludge. Crane developed a septage treatment system that will allow 75 percent of septage volume to be discharged locally as safe, clean water, with the remaining 25 percent transported to a treatment facility as concentrated solids.
Next, they heard from Aquarius Systems, a member of The Water Council that makes surface water management equipment. Jane Dauffenbach explained how machines such as aquatic vegetation cutters, trash skimmers and amphibious excavators help communities all over the world clear the surfaces of lakes and rivers, allowing them to continue using the water for drinking, irrigation and hydropower.
The group also heard from Milwaukee School of Engineering and the International Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Foundation about water projects they have led or assisted with around the globe. In the afternoon, they visited the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences to learn about the programs and research happening there.
The naval officers can use what they’ve learned to address water problems in their home countries, Yehl said. As naval leaders, they could be called on to help in case of a humanitarian crisis such as water scarcity or flooding. Those crises, if left unaddressed, can lead to international conflict. That’s something the Naval War College wants to help officers avoid. “They can potentially use these sources to hopefully head off a conflict,” Yehl said.
Wisconsin State Sen. Dale Kooyenga, himself an officer in the U.S. Army Reserves, welcomed the naval officers to the Global Water Center and emphasized the importance of water in global alliances. “It’s of critical importance that America continues to show we’re the leader in business and technology,” he said afterward. “Being that water is the most basic of necessities to promote healthy communities, it has been and will be a key component of retaining and improving our relationship with our allies around the world. Military alliances are a key part of this strategy and having leaders throughout the world that are aware and able to call on Milwaukee’s expertise in water is in the best interest of our nation and allies.”